Review Provides Deterrence, Arms Reduction Roadmap
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 6, 2010 The Nuclear Posture Review is a roadmap for reducing America’s nuclear arsenal while maintaining an effective deterrent, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said at the Pentagon today. Video
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Energy Secretary Steven Chu conduct a news conference at the Pentagon to discuss the Nuclear Posture Review, April 6, 2010. DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The congressionally mandated review charts the steps toward reducing nuclear risks to the United States, U.S. allies and partners, and the international community.
“This review describes how the United States will reduce the role and numbers of nuclear weapons with a long-term goal of a nuclear-free world,” Gates said.
Gates – accompanied by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen – explained some of the changes the review recommends.
New declaratory policies have taken the place of intentionally vague policies of the past, Gates said. For example, if a state that does not have nuclear weapons is in compliance with the nonproliferation treaty and its obligations, the United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against that state. If such a state were to use chemical or biological weapons against the United States or its allies or partners, however, “it would face the prospect of a devastating conventional military response,” the secretary said.
Gates said the United States will adjust its policy if circumstances dictate the need. “Given the catastrophic potential of biological weapons and the rapid pace of biotechnology development,” he said, “the United States reserves the right to make any adjustment to this policy that may be warranted by the evolution and proliferation of biological weapons.”
The Cabinet secretaries and the chairman stressed that the Nuclear Posture Review was a collegial interagency and international effort.
“The consultations that supported this process included more than 30 of our allies and partners,” Clinton said. “For generations, the United States’ nuclear deterrent has helped prevent proliferation by providing our non-nuclear allies in NATO, in the Pacific and elsewhere with reassurance and security. The policies outlined in this review allow us to continue that stabilizing role.”
Officials said this is the most comprehensive review of U.S. nuclear strategy since the end of the Cold War, and that it places the prevention of nuclear terrorism and proliferation at the top of the U.S. nuclear policy agenda.
“Given al-Qaida’s continued quest for nuclear weapons, Iran’s on-going nuclear efforts and North Korea’s proliferation, this focus is appropriate, and indeed,… an essential change from previous reviews,” Gates said.
Gates stressed that the review has strong messages for Iran and North Korea.
“Whether it’s in declaratory policy or in other elements of the [Nuclear Posture Review], we essentially carve out states like Iran and North Korea that are not in compliance with [the nonproliferation treaty],” he said. “And basically, all options are on the table when it comes to countries in that category, along with nonstate actors who might acquire nuclear weapons.”
The message to Iran and North Korea is if they play by the rules, then they will be covered by the new recommendations, Gates said. “But if you're not going to play by the rules, if you're going to be a proliferator, then all options are on the table in terms of how we deal with you.”
The review has the full support of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mullen said.
“We believe it provides us and our field commanders the opportunity to better shape our nuclear weapons posture, policies and force structure to meet an ever-changing security environment,” Mullen said. “This Nuclear Posture Review reaffirms our commitment to defend the vital interests of the United States and those of our partners and allies with a more balanced mix of nuclear and non-nuclear means than we have at our disposal today.”
The review’s conclusion that the United States can maintain deterrence with half of its current nuclear arsenal served as the basis for U.S. negotiations for the new strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia that President Barack Obama is scheduled to sign April 8. The United States also will continue an on-going and high-level dialogue with Russia and China aimed at fostering more stable, resilient and transparent strategic relationships, Gates said.
Some aspects of the posture will remain static. The United States will continue to field its triad of nuclear-capable missiles, aircraft and submarines.
“The United States will continue to hold accountable any state, terrorist group or other nonstate actor that supports or enables terrorist efforts to obtain or use weapons of mass destruction, whether by facilitating, financing, or providing expertise or safe haven for such efforts,” Gates said.
The United States will continue to develop and improve non-nuclear capabilities – including regional missile defenses – to strengthen deterrence and reduce the role of nuclear weapons, Gates said. “Finally, the United States will continue abiding by its pledge not to conduct nuclear testing,” said he added.